Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where is he now?

Today's reading, from Luke's gospel, is sometimes referred to as the story of the "rich young ruler". He comes to Jesus, calling him "Good teacher," and asking him about eternal life.
19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

21"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.
Luke 18:18-23
Jesus says, rather off-handedly I think, that no one is good except God alone. And that's certainly true. I mean, I know people who are relatively good; I know of people who are good people, relatively speaking. But, as someone reported, even Mother Teresa was far from perfect -- as she herself had said.

Was Jesus saying, "Why are you calling me God?" I'm not sure. Anyway, the ruler is confident that he's obeyed the external regulations. Jesus apparently discerns something about the man's inner condition, and tells him about the one thing he lacks.

A couple of weeks ago, we watched an episode of "Tales from the Madhouse," which was a PBS mini-series, produced in the UK I think. This particular one depicted the rich young ruler years later. No longer young, but still rich, he described his encounter with that strange rabbi from Nazareth.

It was a terrific monologue, raising questions about who the man really was. I mean, what was he like? What drove him?

And what happened to him? If he could have lived a thousand years on earth, what would he have been like nearer the end?

Well, one can always hope that he might have encountered Jesus, or one of his followers, later on, and repented then. But if he didn't... would he have died a lonely old man?

I think yes, and that scares me a little, because there's a little of that rich young ruler in me. What reward would there be if I cashed out the retirement account and gave, say, half of it away? What would happen? Would it be worth it?

I could argue one way or the other, but what have I actually done?

I'm not talking here about what's required to get eternal life, but rather about what it means to serve God, and in so doing, to get everything out of this life that he wants us to have.

I'm not sure what the answer is for now -- or for eternity, but I decide every day what to do and how to spend (or invest) the resources he has entrusted to me.

May you and I decide well.

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